I was reading the comments on this story when it occurred to me that people really don’t understand the constitution. Oh, they know the buzz words, like “innocent until proven guilty” and “freedom of speech”, but they really don’t get it.
Several people commented on their belief that Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow are guilty as hell of unlawful activity during their times as Utah State Attorney General. They were quickly slapped down with the so called constitutional “presumption of innocence” (according to my sources, those words are not actually in the constitution).
Here’s the problem: “Presumption of Innocence” is a judicial tenet, not a requirement of the general public. Courts, judges and juries are required to consider an individual legally innocent until proven guilty. I, as a individual citizen, am not. I’m allowed to, in my own mind, convict anyone of anything on any amount of evidence, or lack thereof, I want to. And I’m even allowed to tell other people that’s what I believe. So, when I say that I think Shurtleff and Swallow are guilty as hell, that I think they will be found guilty in a court and that I hope they get the maximum sentence allowed, don’t tell me I’m violating their constitutional rights. Unless I’m on the jury, I’m not.
The other one I see a lot (from both sides of the political spectrum) is “don’t [pick one: tell them to shut up, call them an idiot or boycott their business], they have a constitutional right to free speech.”
Well, ya they do, but that only applies to the government telling you to shut up. My freedom of speech allows me to let you know I think you’re an idiot and that I think you should just close your mouth before you prove I’m right. (Oh, and you, too, have the right to tell me to shut up before I prove that I’m the idiot you’re calling me.)
Furthermore, businesses are able to restrict the speech of their employees, particularly when it has an effect on their business. Consider the Duck Dynasty debacle. Many people got on A&E’s case when they cancelled the show because of something that one actor said. Screams of infringing on his constitutional right to free speech were all over the place.
Let’s make this easy. If you went to a restaurant and the manager asked “How many are there in your in-bred redneck party tonight?”, would you expect them to keep their job? Or if the server asked “Do you really need that cheesecake, isn’t your ass fat enough already?” When the manager came by, heard that and fired the server, would you demand that they be rehired on the grounds that it infringes on their rights?
It’s pretty simple; in general the constitution was written to limit actions in the public sector, not on the individual citizen scale.